Photo in the News: Bat Has Longest Tongue of Any Mammal

Photo of a bat with the longest tongue of any mammal
Email to a Friend


December 6, 2006—It's enough to give Gene Simmons (inset) appendage envy. Despite a '70s rock rumor, the Kiss bassist did not have his tongue surgically replaced with a cow's. But could Anoura fistulata tempt him to go batty?

A. fistulata (shown lapping sugar water from a tube) has the longest tongue, relative to body length, of any mammal—and now scientists think they know why.

"This bat was just discovered last year, and now we've observed a very unique relationship with a local flower," said Nathan Muchhala, a University of Miami Ph.D. student whose team's findings are to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature.

Found in an Andean cloud forest in Ecuador, A. fistulata (aka the tube-lipped nectar bat) evolved mutually with an extremely long, bell-shaped flower, the team says. In fact, armed with a tongue that retracts into the bat's rib cage, A. fistulata is now the only animal that can pollinate the flower.

—Ted Chamberlain

More Photos in the News
Today's Most Viewed News Stories and Photos
Free Photo Newsletter

NEWS FEEDS    After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed. After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS




ADVERTISEMENT

 

50 Drives of a Lifetime

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.